“Silencing of Dissent”: Lecture by Adv S Balan, NCHRO Karnataka Chapter President at the IIT Madras.
April 14, 2019
On 13 April, the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti, the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, at IIT Madras, organised a talk on the challenges faced by the dissenting voices of rationalists and activists in our country. Advocate S Balan, NCHRO Karntaka chapter president, a senior lawyer at the Karnataka High Court, and the Special Public Prosecutor in the Gauri Lankesh murder case delivered a lecture titled “Silencing of Dissent”.
In his lecture, Advocate Balan explained the right wing’s modus operandi to silence the voices of those who dared to put forth their opinions and raise their voices against the injustice meted out on people in the name of religion and tradition.
On September 5, 2017, Gauri Lankesh, activist and editor-in-chief of Lankesh Patrike, was murdered at her residence by two people affiliated to Sanatan Sanstha- a Hindu right-wing outfit. Her murder shook the whole nation leading to a huge outcry by the citizens demanding the need to defend their freedom of expression.Through her works, Gauri critiqued the Hindu fundamentalists, communal politics, and the caste system. She was murdered for raising her voice; for defending her ideas; her right to freedom of speech and expression.
In the last five years, activist, rationalists and authors, who opposed right-wing politics have been assassinated. In August 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, a Pune-based anti-superstition activist, was shot dead while he was on his morning walk. In February 2015, Govind Pansare, a CPI member and author of the book Who was Shivaji? was shot dead. In the same year in August, M M Kalburgi, a professor and author, was shot dead. In September 2017, journalist and activist, Gauri Lankesh was killed. Common links exist between these murders. The pattern of all four murders has been the same. The killers came on motorbikes and fired shots in broad daylight. Their aim, to silence the voice of dissent. These deaths have been the handiworks of right-wing fundamentalists, who were opposed to the ideas expressed by the slain authors/activists. In June 2018, Parashuram Waghmare, the man who confessed to killing Lankesh, said that he did it to “Save Hindu religion from destruction”. Endorsing his action, Sri Rama Sena – a Hindu right-wing group – has appealed to the citizens on its Facebook page to donate to help the family of Waghmare.
Remember to defend your right to freedom of expression, in words and deeds, and to assert dissent. We have lost Gauri; we do not want to lose anyone else.Nothing is infallible. Nothing is binding forever. Everything is subject to inquiry and examination.” Ambedkar said in his book Buddha or Karl Marx. The constitution of our country asks of us to develop a scientific temper. But rationalists who critically analyse the society and voice their dissent against the existing status quo are being silenced in many ways – attacks, denial of public spaces, arrests or even deaths. But dissent is essential for any thriving democracy in the world. The recent killings of journalist and rationalists – Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi – are shocking and most brutal examples of such silencing. Dissent, which is essential for any thriving democracy in the world, is being made into a dangerous thing to do.